+ See the Wikipedia page about Vargas Llosa’s essay “Historia secreta de una novela.” It is about how he came to write La casa verde, including research trips to the jungle. The descriptions in this essay of what he saw and went through as a traveler are fascinating (and somewhat harrowing).
+ On travel to the same jungle now: here is what it would be like on a deluxe tour from Iquitos to Manaus (“happy jungle”). Note the cost per day of that. Here’s another, similar tour description. Here, however, are some budget tourists’ descriptions of what it is like to go on the regular boats, that poor people ride on and the characters in La casa verde would ride on. I like this description of the trip from Pucallpa to Iquitos quite a lot. I read another more graphic description – about the smells on the boat and how crowded it was – but I cannot find it right now.
+ I notice that La casa verde uses some of the same language about the jungle we have seen elsewhere (e.g. in Heart of Darkness). Who is saying these things … the characters, the narrator, or both … ?
+ I reiterate: this novel is built like a mosaic. It’s a regular, systematic mosaic, and it gets easier to read after the first (unnumbered) section. But we keep jumping between threads of different stories, which are not woven together until the end. We have to accept that we’re jumping from place to place (usually in the same order, though) and get used to it.
+ Time in this novel jumps around, too, and overlaps. Sometimes characters are remembering, or telling each other what happened. Other times, new events are taking place in the present.
+ The narrative voice in this novel is also strange. The narrator is often representing or narrating the thoughts (or commentary) of a character, and blending his perspective with that of the character. The narrator is not, however, identified with the perspective of any particular character, and sometimes the narrator becomes a more distanced third person narrator.
So, hang on tight and just remember: we’re on an Amazonian boat trip, so things are supposed to be slightly strange!